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Porochilus argenteus (Family Plotosidae)

Silver Tandan, Silver Catfish, Central Australian Catfish, Silver Eeltailed Catfish



They have a broad distribution within the Lake Eyre Basin and on the Barkley Tablelands. They are also reported to be present in a few drainages of the Gulf of Carpentaria, although the identification of these populations remains tentative. (SA, NSW, QLD, NT).


The Silver Tandan is a medium sized elongated fish that can reaches 300 mm, but is usually half that size. They tend to be pale silvery coloured, sometimes with a hint of yellow. They have a pointed, concave head and a more pointed caudal fin relative to other Australian catfishes. Catfishes can be distinguished from most other fishes by their barbels. Most catfishes also posses an adipose fin, although this family does not.

Ecology/Way of Life:

Silver Tandan are found in most waterbody types including large, permanent waterholes and smaller ephemeral creeks. They are highly migratory and can be seen riding the front of flood flows or clumped below small barriers (e.g., road culverts) trying to move upstream. They probably prey upon invertebrates such as snails and shrimps. Nothing is known of their breeding biology, although it seems likely they require flooding to spawn as juveniles are often abundant in places after flooding.

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Interaction with Humans/Threats:

Larger specimens may be angled and are probably good eating. They are rarely kept in aquaria, however they make great pets, as they are quite peaceful and typically do not get too large. They are not formally listed as threatened due to their widespread occurrence. They could easily become threatened if additional exotic fishes became established in their habitat.

Other Comments:

Porochilus argenteus was named by Zietz in 1896. The name is based on Greek, poro meaning hole, chilus meaning lip, in reference to the position of the nostrils and argenteus meaning silvery.

Further Reading:

Allen, G. R., Midgley, S. H. & Allen, M. (2002). Field Guide to the Freshwater Fishes of Australia. Western Australian Museum. Perth. 394pp.

Leggett, R. & Merrick, J. R. (1987). Australian Native Fishes for Aquariums. J. R. Merrick Publications. Sydney. 245pp.

Unmack, P. J. (2003). Australian Desert Fishes.

Wager, R. & Unmack, P. J. (2000). Fishes of the Lake Eyre Catchment of Central Australia. Queensland Department of Primary Industries, Brisbane. 90pp.


Text: Peter J. Unmack & Rob Wager. Distribution map: Peter J. Unmack. Photographer: Gunther Schmida.

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Images and Multi-media:  
Attached Image  
image/gif 51429 bytes Porochilus argenteus
Distribution Map  
image/jpeg 63117 bytes Distribution of Porochilus argenteus

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